1. Trees and shrubs occurring in clumps 2. Observations about tree form and shape 3. Catkins 4. Differentiating the maples 5. Mnemonics
1. Trees and shrubs occurring in clumps
  • Buckthorn, European
  • Buckthorn, Glossy
  • Dogwood, Red osier
  • Dogwood, Round-leaved
  • Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle, Fly
  • Honeysuckle, Tartarian
  • Lilac
  • Maple, Amur
  • Mock-orange
  • Nannyberry
  • Pea tree
  • Sumac, Staghorn
    2. Observations about tree form and shape hallowe'en = oak sudden direction changes, short, offering things = apple, fruit waiter carrying trays on palms of hands = white pine downcast spruce = Norway spruce classic elm shape = elm, sometimes maple bark is messy, shreddy, dark and lighter, in clumps = honeysuckle green-yellow flowers everywhere in late April = Norway maple old keys still on tree = Manitoba maple, Amur maple, ash old leaves still on tree = beech, ironwood, oak needs a haircut = purpleleaf sandcherry explosions of pink on many Ottawa trees in May = flowering crabapple trees recently planted by the city with a protecting circle around the base = Japanese lilac trees lining the W side of the Bank St Bridge = austrian pine, honeysuckle, amur maple near QE Dr
    3a. Trees with dense long pendulous catkins
  • White birch
  • European birch
  • Ironwood - (sometimes short?)
  • Eastern cottonwood
  • Hazel 3b. Trees with less dense, usually shorter catkins
  • Willow
  • Weeping willow
  • Red oak
  • Bur oak
  • English oak
  • White oak
  • Trembling aspen and other poplars
    4. Differentiating the maples Differentiating the maples by leaf: see leaf identification section. Differentiating the maples by fruit (keys, seeds) The keys can help differentiate.
  • Manitoba maple have long hanging sets of keys. They are very small and a dark red. They appear in May. They often hang on the tree all winter. If not, their long hair-like strands of stems can be seen in winter. Manitoba maple trees are one sex or the other only, so keys appear only on the seed-bearing trees.
  • Sugar maple appear to be big keys, with bulging seed cases, set up in a dense row along a branch. I saw them first May 16.
  • Silver maple keys first observed in 2008 on May 18. Tight clusters, not hanging, fairly large Fallen keys can help differentiate. Where you see lots of them on the street, look around to see what tree they came from. Differentiating the tall maples at the start of April, from a distance (1) Are there very big blocks of flower buds visible from a distance? Silver maple or red maple Both have red to reddish brown buds. Silver maple have bigger buds. Red maple buds can look more like rings at the end of the branch. Sometimes on a cloudy day, Manitoba maple buds can look like red maple flower buds from a distance. Look for the leaning, scraggly, usually not so tall form of Manitoba maple. Up close, the buds are very different. (2) If there are no prominent buds at all, are there prominent single brown buds, especially terminal buds, visible from a short distance, and angular old fruit stems, about 4-5 to a unit? If so, that is Norway maple or one of its varieties, Schwedler or Crimson king. (3) If not, are there only small pointy buds visible from fairly close? That is sugar maple. They can have old fruit stems that seem a little shorter than those of Norway maple.
    5. Mnemonics Opposite-leaved trees and shrubs: MANH(an)DLE-BBCCET = maple, ash, nannyberry (viburnums), honeysuckle, dogwood, lilac, elder and elderberry, buckthorn, buttonbush, catalpa, clematis, trumpet-creeper Note: those which have compound leaves are the vowels, plus T, or TEA Alternate compound-leaved trees and shrubs: BL(e)MISH: sumac, hickory, locust, pea-tree, mountain ash, butternut (and black walnut) (The "I" is really a "P")
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